Category Archives: Health
“Will run for beer”
Ever hear this saying or something similar before?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Particularly, how I don’t agree with it.
You see, I began exercising on the regular when I set out to lose 30 lbs four years ago. I counted calories to lose weight, so for a long time exercise was purely a way to burn calories. It gave me a little more wiggle room in my daily calorie allotment and made it so I didn’t lose my mind restricting food in order to shed a few pounds.
As the days went on, I fell more and more in love with exercise. I eventually started doing it because I like it, and not just as a way to lose weight. As I transitioned into weight loss maintenance, exercise not only became my most loved hobby, but also a way to splurge on some of my most favourite treats. Run 6 miles? Awesome, now I get to have dessert today. All without putting on a pound.
But now that I’m a little more separated from the situation, I wonder – is it healthy to use exercise as a justification to eat?
If you were to ask me today, my response would sway towards “no.”
Food and exercise are two very different things and serve two very different purposes. But mostly, I think by creating a relationship between the two, one is setting themselves up to have an unhealthy relationship with both.
I have gained at least 10 lbs since beginning chemotherapy, for a number of reasons. I’m not as active as I used to be (read: no 6 milers here), my eating habits have changed (read: digesting a big salad on chemo is tummy torture) and my most favourite excuse – I’m on steroids, I can’t help it! (same goes with the occasional ‘roid rage)
If I weren’t sick and gained 10 lbs I would immediately turn to exercise to start burning it off. Except this time around I really don’t care about the extra weight. Apart from the frustration of having jeans that don’t fit, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Like a life threatening illness. Suddenly, the idea of vanity weight goes out the window.
With that said, I do still mildly exercise every day. But this time it’s not to lose weight or to keep it off. This time it’s for a different reason altogether. I now realize it’s the reason why I should have been exercising all along. For my health. Study after study shows that cancer patients have a higher rate of survival with exercise. When I hop on the recumbent bike, it’s not with the idea of burning off the ice cream I ate earlier, or for some notion of vanity. It’s for my health, my real health, and my longevity.
When I’m all better and back at the gym, I won’t reward myself with a beer after because I’ve got the extra calories to do it. I’ll drink beer whenever I want and exercise because it’s good for me.
Today is chemo day – treatment #6. I’m halfway through!
There once was a time when I hated my body. Like so many girls, I grew up thinking my body was never good enough. Even though I’ve always been a normal weight, even in my pudgy days, I always berated myself into thinking my body could be better.
When I set out to lose my university beer gut, a strange thing happened. As the numbers on the scale went down, I started to like who looked back at me in the mirror. As I started to run races and ticked off the miles, I began to think “Damn, I’m pretty awesome.”
After years and years of hating my body, I suddenly loved it. I credited my new active regime for the 180. Heavy weightlifting transformed the shape of my body from a skinnier version of the old one, into the body I always dreamed of having. I was on cloud nine. For the first time in my life, I had oodles of self-esteem, and I owed it all to healthy eating and exercise.
This is one of the reasons why I started this blog. I was just so excited about this revelation that I had to share it. I changed professions so I could teach people in the gym how to not only look good, but feel great as a result.
If you haven’t spotted the problem yet, I will tell you, there is a very, very big problem in all of this.
When I fell skating on the Rideau Canal in February, I didn’t just shatter my arm. I shattered the self esteem that I’d spent years building. It had never occurred to me that I was putting all my eggs in one basket. That my sense of self worth came from the fact that I could run and exercise and lift heavy things.
I never considered that an accident could take my ability to do those things away. And as a result, lose my sense of self worth.
I’ve been very open about my struggles dealing with my arm injury. Although it probably just sounded like whining over a broken arm to many, the struggles came from a very deep place.
In the months following my injury, I spent a lot of time mourning the things I’d never be able to do again. I clung on to the hope that maybe someday I’d be able to do a push up or go into downward dog. Again, silly things to get so upset over, but things that meant SO much to the identity I’d forged for myself.
Then the cancer diagnosis came and everything changed. Without that diagnosis, I would probably still be clinging on to some hope that I could still take on the activities I once loved. But now I truly understand how silly it was to put so much importance into something so fleeting. I never should have relied on my body’s abilities to give me self esteem. Even when it was blanketed in seemingly healthy things like running and eating good food.
I am only just beginning the process of recovering my broken ego. I am creating new passions and finding joy in things that have nothing to do with my body or the way I look. I will never again think “I love my legs because they can run far!” Because will I still love them if I suddenly can’t run anymore?
As you know, I still (mildly) exercise every day. But now it’s purely because it increases my rate of survival and makes me feel good. I still eat healthy foods because they’re good for the cells inside my body. My self esteem now comes from the idea that yes, I am pretty awesome, but not because I can lift “x” number of pounds. My self esteem comes from the fact that I am happy being who I am on this planet, regardless of the body the houses me.
As I alluded to yesterday, my mom and I hit the road on Wednesday for a mini adventure!
One thing that cancer introduces you to, is the big world of alternative medicine. I have so far ignored this because Hodgkins Lymphoma can actually be cured through traditional medicine. I don’t want to stray from the tried and true methods with something as serious as cancer. With that said, I have been slightly interested in complementing my chemo with safe methods to gently help it along. I’ll try anything to make sure I’m in that 80% of people that are cured!
My mom, the former microbiologist, is a big proponent of reiki. It’s something that my great-grandmother did (and did successfully) before it came known to people as Japanese energy healing. Put simply, someone performs reiki on another person by using the energy around them to heal or calm the recipient’s body. This can be done through gentle touch, or moving their hands over the body.
When my mom made an appointment for me to get reiki in Sussex, I figured what the hell. I can’t do massage or acupuncture in my current state, so a gentle therapy sounded like the next best thing.
I arrived not really knowing what to expect. The Reiki Master first asked me a bunch of questions, then laid me down on a massage table. He began by going through the reflexology points on my feet. He pushed on various areas and I told him when one hurt more than the other. This part was the most interesting, because the areas I picked out as being tender were those areas I have the most troubles with – inner ear, sciatic nerve, lymph glands, ovaries, and pancreas. He taught me how to work these areas on my feet to help ease these spots.
After that, he began the whole-body therapy. He began by gently touching my feet and went up through the whole body. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but it was hard not to get distracted. The Reiki Master spent a lot of time moving his hands quickly over my heart (where the most active part of the cancer is) and I could feel the air whistling down my body as he pushed the energy towards my feet.
When we were all done, he taught me how to meditate, which I am SO thankful for. I’ve been trying and failing to meditate for over a year now. I will definitely give his method a try.
Overall, I don’t really have many deep thoughts on the experience. I think I was too preoccupied when I walked in the door to get a deeper experience out of it. I’ve been having pain in my skeleton all week as a drug side-effect and was very wrapped up in that. The reiki did help temporarily ease the pain because it helped me relax and take my mind off it. If anything, I just hope the reiki helped reduce the inflammation in my body, and maybe help the chemo kill those cancer cells.
The other part of the mini adventure included the out-of town trip!
Sussex, New Brunswick is a small town surrounded by dairy farms and home to about a gajillion murals.
Mom knew just the place for lunch – Broadway Cafe.
A cute little place that doubles as a cafe-restaurant during the day, and a place for drinks at night.
They had an extensive sandwich menu. I went with one of my favourites – smoked pastrami with mustard and pickles. I ordered this right after the Reiki Master told me not to mix my meat and starches. I’m working on it!!
A+ on the meat, A+ on the bread, but together the bread got soggy. My mom and I discussed how this is a combination Montreal has managed to perfect.
Side salad was delicious. Called a “Red Head Salad” it had red cabbage, apples, carrots, cucumbers, raisins, walnuts, and a creamy herbed dressing.
With our bellies full, Mom and I wandered the streets of Sussex, enjoying being tourists for a day.
We poked our heads in all the knick-knack shops. I love antiques! Actually, I don’t think these are even technically antiques. “Old junk” may be more appropriate.
I can’t wait until the day I have a house to fill with my own cool junk :)
Everyone has been asking me if reiki is something I will do again, and I think my answer would be “yes.” But not right away. I think I will let the chemo do its thing first and perhaps explore more alternative medicine when the poisons are out of my body and I can focus more on making sure the cancer never comes back. One treatment at a time I think.